Free state of the art planetarium shows

The new planetarium in the Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation holds reoccurring shows every Sunday and has new shows once a month.  (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian)
The new planetarium in the Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation holds reoccurring shows every Sunday and has new shows once a month. (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian)

The first weekly planetarium show of the fall 2013 semester was open to the public in the newly-equipped Shineman Center planetarium last Sunday.

On Sunday, the first full-time planetarium show took place at 7 p.m., where students and visitors could observe the movement of the sun, stars and constellations. They were visualized in the 24-feet dome using a new digital projection system.

As the event was first-come-first-serve, as the 36 seats in the planetarium did not accommodate all visitors and some had to sit on the floor.

Scott Roby, associate professor of astronomy at Oswego State and the planetarium’s director, was in charge of the show, titled “Motions of the Sky.”

“Motions of the Sky” kicked off showing the audience the daily rotation of the sky 480 times faster than the norm.

“The old planetarium could show you the sky from anywhere on earth, but the new planetarium can show you the sky from anywhere in the universe,” Roby said.

Roby went on by outlining how the sets of constellations vary season to season. He told the audience how the ancient astrologists predicted when to crop and harvest.

Roby also showed the variation of the daily solar path depending on the season. In summer, the sun travels higher in the sky, 70 degrees from the ground, and in winter, lower the sky, 30 degrees. With this precise technology, the audience could observe slight details such as analema and sidereal time, which occur due to the Earth’s orbital speed.

First of all, he showed the trajectory of analema, an “8”-shaped movement due to the slight variation of the Earth’s orbital speed.

He also explained sidereal time, or star time, where a day consists of 23 hours and 56 minutes, compared to the mean solar time, where a day consist of 24 hours. Turning off the sunlight was an option so that the audience could track the trajectory of the sun in the dark sky more easily and see the stars drifting next to it.

“You do that one day to the next. You will find the difference if you did that every single day,” Roby said during the show

Also, with the help of such precision, he could explain the small wobbles of stars. If a huge amount of time passes, Polaris, commonly known as the North Star, will shift its location, as will other stars’ movement, such as Vega, Er Rai, Thuban and Alderamin.

“It’s not always a pole star,” Roby said.

Moreover, the dome projected how constellations such as Diaco, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Hercules collapse their shape.

“I loved to watch how the constellation changes for a long period of time,” said Tom Bodnar, a junior biochemistry major. “[The constellations were] well visualized.”

The show ended with a state-of-art clip, that showed how the earth and its satellites are included in the solar system, which is a part of the Milky Way galaxy, and how galaxies like this comprise the entire universe.

The system of computers, projectors and software that make up the new planetarium and enabled this show is known as SciDome 1600.

“The display is made through a pair of lamps shining through a fish-eye lens to project onto the spherical dome surface,” Roby said.

It is also equipped with the combination of the Preflight computer and the Renderbox computer, which are highly customized to enhance graphics and processing speeds, according to Roby.

“I loved the entire universe in show,” said Johana Lambert, a senior biology major. “This is my first time to be in the show. I think it was a really good show.”

The planetarium was open to the local community during the Shineman Center open house on Sept. 30, after the long slumber since the old planetarium in Piez Hall closed in June 2010. According to Roby, more than 300 people visited the planetarium in the open house and experienced 15-minute-long demonstrations.

“My wife came to the Shineman Center open house last Monday and that’s how I got to visit the show with her,” said Milton Loayza, an Oswego local, accompanied by his wife and children. “[Roby] explained very well and I learned a lot in here. I also loved the technical features too.”

Those who missed “Motions of the Sky” this time will not need to worry. The same show will take place all month long. The planetarium prepares new shows each month.

“You will have three more chances to watch this,” Roby said.